Author Kate Messner glad Watertown has found “Wake Up Missing”
Book is a finalist for Watertown Middle School One Book/School summer reading program
June 10, 2015 • 1,257 views
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Every year, Watertown Middle School has the One Book/One School summer reading program. Students and staff worked to choose that one book that all sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders and their teachers will read, and complete the packet that goes along with it.
There are two finalists this year, “Out Of My Mind” by Sharon Draper, and “Wake Up Missing” by Kate Messner. These two books were chosen because they had a strong female protagonist. Watertown Middle School wanted the summer book to have a strong female protagonist because most of the books in the past have had a strong male protagonist.
Kate Messner lives in Northern New York across Lake Champlain from Burlington, Vt. She’s often in Boston because her son goes to school in the area.
The Watertown Splash asked Kate about “Wake Up Missing” and the WMS summer reading program. The following are her emailed responses.
Q: How do you feel having about 700 students and staff reading your book?
A: Just thinking about this is awesome! My books have been chosen for all-school reads before, and it’s always a fantastic experience when a whole community comes together to share a book. Having a book selected is a joy and an honor.
Q: Will this book seem different from girls’ and boys’ perspective?
A: You know, I really don’t think it will. There are both boy and girl characters in “Wake Up Missing,” but even if there weren’t, I don’t think that matters. Sometimes, we hear people say “Oh, this is a boy book,” or “That’s more of a girl book,” but I don’t really believe in that. Readers are all unique, whether they’re boys or girls, and the great thing about reading a fantastic book is that we relate to the characters as fellow human beings, rather than people of a particular gender. And the themes in “Wake Up Missing” – changes, friendship, and identity – are universal.
Q: Do you think sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders will look at the book differently?
A: That’s an interesting question for me to think about! Cat, the main character, spends some time reflecting on how things changed when she started middle school, so I wonder if the sixth-graders might relate to that on a more personal, immediate level, while the eighth-graders might view the story through the lens of experience. I often hear from kids via email after an all-school read, so it will be interesting to keep track of this.
Q: Will adults see the book differently than middle school students?
A: In many ways, no – because the story and themes are universal, and I really hope it’s a great book for anyone who loves an adventure. But that said, I also think adults – parents, in particular – will have different reactions to some of the things happening to the kids and the choices they make.
Q: Do you feel middle-school students would understand this book better than high-schoolers?
A: I think middle-school readers will probably have a stronger connection to “Wake Up Missing” than readers of other ages might, because the characters in this book are all dealing with middle-school issues and emotions.
Q: One of the staff members picking the summer reading book said that they wanted to have a book with a strong female protagonist. How did you come up with that character?
A: All of my books have strong girls, because most of the girls I know in real life are like that. They’re smart, brave, kind, and resilient, so for me, it’s very natural to develop girl characters who share those traits. When I was developing Cat as a character, I thought about her history – what she’d been through and where she’d come from – and tried to make sure her choices and actions in the book felt authentic, based on her personality.
Q: Is there anything people should be aware of before they read the book?
A: Often, kids who read “Wake Up Missing” have questions about the science in the book, and many of those are addressed in the author’s note that discusses what’s real and what’s fiction. The field of genetic engineering is both fascinating and frightening to me, and I know that readers sometimes come away from this novel wanting to know more about that area of science, which is great.
Q: Does this book connect with anything in your life?
A: It’s set in a place that I love – the Florida Everglades. I’ve spent a fair amount of time hiking and kayaking in the Everglades and find the swamp to be both beautiful and frightening in its wildness. It felt like a perfect place for this story to be set.
Q: When did you start thinking about writing as a career?
A: Interestingly enough, writing books was never my career goal when I was a kid because it just didn’t occur to me that it was an option. I grew up in a very small town and didn’t know anyone who wrote stories for a job, so when I went to college for “writing,” I studied journalism and worked in that field for seven years before I went back to school to get my teaching degree. It was while I was teaching middle school that I rediscovered my love of writing stories and started thinking about writing for publication.
(For more information about Kate Messner and “Wake Up Missing,” go to www.katemessner.com.)
–June 10, 2015–